Sunrise at Tikal, Guatemala: The Best Tour to See Tikal
Getting The Entrance Tickets Can Be a Bit Tricky…
For most of us, preparing to see and exhibit, a show, a monument or even an ancient structure requires tickets that can be easily bought online. Tikal, however, is not the case. You cannot buy tickets online. Moreover, there are only a handful of places to buy tickets and if you are arriving the evening before a sunrise tour of Tikal, you will really have to plan ahead of time. We worked with our hotel, through Facebook DM, to help arrange tickets. It was not the easiest arrangements, but Roberto, from The Jungle Lodge (our hotel), was very kind and helpful. Here is the information on Tikal tickets.
Tickets for Tikal can be purchased at the main gate (not the park entrance) at Banrul bank. Keep in mind it opens at 6:00AM and closes at 6:00PM They can also be purchased at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City, at the Flores Mundo Maya International Airport or at the immigration building in Melchor de Mencos (on the Belize- Guatemala border, on the Guatemalan side) before arriving into the park.
Park guards will only accept bank deposit slips as proof of purchase and give you the appropriate bracelets. This is because they cannot accept cash nor take any payments at the TIKAL NATIONAL PARK’s gate.
Park tickets are $20.00(250 Q) and then there is a $13 park entrance fee (100Q).
IF you are doing the sunrise tour, you must have two tickets to enter the park. One ticket will cover from 4:00AM- 6:00AM. The next ticket will cover your entrance from 6:00AM-5:00PM. The cost for the sunrise ticket is about $34.00 and the daytime ticket is about $20.00 depending on exchange rates. Children under 12 enter for free.
IF you do a sunrise tour, tickets for that tour must be bought the day before. The ticket office (Banrul Bank) at the main gate does not open until 6:00am. Buy them a day ahead!
You can arrange for your hotel to purchase the tickets before hand and some hotels will include it in the price of the stay. We had our hotel purchase our tickets ahead of time as we were arriving straight into Flores in the evening.
Getting to Tikal and Where to Stay
We flew into Belize city and took a puddle hopper into Flores. You can also fly from Guatemala City or go via bus which will take about 9 1/2 hours. I highly recommend staying on sight. There are three hotels on site. This way, when you wake up for the sunrise tour, you are literally right there to start your hike. We stayed at the Jungle Lodge Hotel. It is a moderate hotel that also has a hostel side with shared bathrooms.
We stayed in a “deluxe” room with a private bathroom. The windows were screens only. This way, you could lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle. I had originally stayed there in 1999, since this time the hotel has been drastically upgraded. However, be aware that at certain hours of the day an night, they do shut off the electricity to conserve power.
The Sunrise Tour of Tikal
We arrived to the meeting point for our tour at 4:15AM, grabbed a coffee and our boxed lunch from the hotel and made our way out to meet our guide for the tour. Let me reiterate, that for the tour you will need two entrance tickets. One for the pre-dawn hours (4am-6am) and one for the day hours (6am to closing). Our hotel was kind enough to purchase our tickets before our arrival as you cannot buy them online. You can only purchase tickets at certain banks (one in the airport in Flores), but we arrived after closing hours and would not have been able to buy them.
Our guide brought us to the check-in stand–I say that loosely as it was a cart table–and we were given wrist bands for the day. We were off strolling through the jungle in the dark with only headlamps and flashlights to lead the way. With the exception of our guide speaking, the jungle was quiet and dark. We turned our lights off and looked up at the starry sky. It had been forever since I had seen that many stars. It was unbelievable the amount of stars and such clarity.
Along our walk we did encounter an enormous spider, size of my hand, and came across some temples and ruins.
Our guide did stop to tell us about some of the ancient artifacts along the way. One of was a massive slab depicting the Mayan calendar. Our guide went into detail describing the slab and how the Mayans used the Lunar calendar.
This was all before arriving to the Temple where we would hopefully watch the sunrise over Tikal. When we finally arrived to Temple IV, the temple used to view the sunrise, we climbed wooden stairs that were put in place so that tourists would not have to climb the original stairs of the temple as they are in bad shape. A crowd had gathered at the top and everyone sat in silence as the dawn arose. The jungle came to life, birds awoke and howler monkeys made their presence known.
It was amazing to be above the tree tops watching this phenomenon. We take for granted the miracle that the dawn brings every day. The kids loved watching and listening, trying to identify the animals making the noises they heard during the sunrise tour of Tikal. You cannot replicate the experience and I highly recommend the adventure. Especially with kids 5 and older. The younger ones I would worry about getting too close to the edge, or not really understanding the draw of listening to the jungle wake up with the sun.
We spent a bit more time in Tikal with our guide learning about the Mayans and the structures within the area. The kids had the chance to climb some of the temples and loved discovering the fauna and flora within the area and searching for toucans. Our day ended by 11:30 and we were back at the hotel headed to the pool for a swim and lunch. We also had a nice rest and took some time to relax, shower, and watch spider monkeys frolic in the trees.
Important Tips for Tikal:
- Bring plenty of water, snacks, hats and sunscreen. It may start out cool, but will get hot very quickly.
- There is only one snack stand at the park and they charge tourist prices (that means you will pay a lot for a bottle of water).
- Try to get there early before it gets hot.
- There is no age minimum on the tour. Kids will walk for several miles and for the better part of the day. If your kid can’t walk that far, either bring some type of kid carrying back-pack or consider holding off a little longer. Our 8-year old did great.
- Bring good walking shoes.
- Do not stray from the paths as it is dense jungle and you can get lost very easily.
Although many temples have wooden staircases built next to the temples for easier access to the top, some do not. So if you are climbing the original stairs, going up is easier than coming down. Be careful.
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
Where to Eat
Imperial Maya Comedor- Located Near the Main Entrance to the Park
Hands Down the Best Homemade Salsa Picante I Ever Had.
I don’t know what it was about the salsa picante here, but if I could have a lifetime supply, I’d be happy. It was the perfect blend of acid and spice with he right amount of pickled vegetables. We enjoyed our meal. The roasted chicken was tasty, and served with rice, beans, and plantains. The service is slow (Guatamalan-style), but what’s the rush when you are sitting outside in perfect weather under the stars?
This post may contain affiliate links which means that we receive a small commission if you click on a link & purchase something that we’ve recommended – at no extra cost to you. This helps us to keep our site running so we can continue to provide free content.